History of Bottle Kiln, Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent | Re-form
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Bottle oven no.1 is the sole surviving kiln of an original seven which saw Middleport Pottery become known as the ‘Seven Oven Works’ and dominated the skyline of this part of The Potteries for around eighty years.

Of the original ovens, three large biscuit ovens were built in a row in the relatively spacious yard between the biscuit range and lost range while a further four glost ovens were located in the now built-over yard between the glost range and the archive/warehouse range. The positioning of these kilns, making them integral to the process flow of the works, was one of the key innovations of A.R. Wood’s original plan.

Each of the ovens at Middleport was of a type which can be described as an updraught oven. These consist of a bottle-shaped brick structure called the hovel* within which was an inner chamber with a domed roof, in which the leather hard greenware was placed within saggars.

The coal-fired ovens at Middleport Pottery were some of the last to be fired in The Potteries. After the passing of the Clean Air Acts in the mid-1950s most pottery works were given seven years to move on to gas and electric kilns. The easternmost glost kiln was demolished in 1949 to allow for the introduction of the Allied gas-fired tunnel kiln within the ground floor of the middle range. The remaining glost ovens and the western two biscuit ovens were demolished in 1965 with biscuit oven No.1 (to the east) surviving due only to its being integral to the structure of the adjacent middle range.

Despite this, Burgess & Leigh did later apply for listed building consent to demolish bottle oven no. 1, however their application was turned down by Stoke-on-Trent Council, who stated that the oven was ‘one of the finest examples of the few potters updraught bottle kilns remaining in the city; a striking townscape feature which is clearly visible from the principal road, rail and waterway approaches to the city; it has considerable archaeological value as the most important component in a group of nineteenth century industrial buildings’ (op cit. Princes Regeneration Trust 2012, 32). The bottle oven stands redundant but in reasonable condition.

Fires were lit in fire mouth openings at the foot of the oven by the fireman, from which flues led to bags and small firebrick chimneys which directed flames from the fire below into the oven and protected the saggars nearby. Once the smoking period, in which all of the water was baked out of the clay, was over the entrance, known as the clammins, was bricked up. For the next two days, the heat rose up through the saggars, attaining temperatures of around 1100°C, and out of the top of the oven. The temperature was manipulated by controlling the draught, by either opening or closing dampers in the crown of the oven. Once firing was complete, the clammins were taken down and the oven emptied (‘drawn’). At Middleport, the biscuit-fired ware was then moved on to the middle, glost and Port Street range for decorating and glazing.